California Riding Magazine • April, 2013

Dustin Davis Training Center
New-in-town trainer has the horse's welfare at heart.

by Kim F. Miller

Photo © Kelly Campbell

It's hard to miss Dustin Davis at a hunter/jumper show. He's the tall guy in a black cowboy hat and boots and, yes, he looks a little out of place amongst the breeches set. But those who've sent their horse to Dustin know it's his horsemanship skills, not his attire, that set him apart.

The Colorado native is a lifelong horseman who moved to Southern California in June and has already established a loyal and growing following. In starting young horses, fine-tuning veterans and working with challenging cases of any age and discipline, Dustin is driven by one mission: "to get the best deal for the horse."

Based at the Dustin Davis Training Center in Chino Hills, he's worked with reiners, western pleasure, dressage and jumping horses. "It doesn't really matter the discipline or breed," he notes. "To me it all goes back to putting the right foundation on the horse." A horse with that foundation, "will be able to pack any kind of saddle, be easy to ride and as bombproof as I can get them."

Dustin uses methods similar to those of natural horsemen including Tom Dorrance, Ray Hunt and Buck Brannaman. Making the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard are keys to creating the all-important willing partnership he strives for. Setting up lessons in a way that convinces the horse each task was his idea is another tenet of Dustin's approach. Fancy or severe equipment is not in his toolbox and the ultimate goal is horses so responsive to natural aids that they could be ridden bridleless. "The less you have to do the more you'll get out of your horse," he explains.

Getting the horses to go nicely for him is often the easy part, but the trainer doesn't stop there. "It's unfair to work something through with a horse then send it home with no instructions," he explains. "I ask clients with every ounce of my heart to come ride with me a few times so when they take their horse home they can progress from what I've started, rather than relapse."

So-called "problem" horses are sometimes normal horses with a "people problem," Dustin asserts in gently amused way. Whenever possible, he evaluates horses in their home stable environment. Often, it's rider nerves or lack of confidence causing the issue. He sees a lot of horses who are fine with their owners at the walk but accelerate too much at the trot, often breaking into a lope. "Nine out of 10 times that can be resolved pretty quickly if the rider learns to go with their horse. Most of the time, that happens and the rider chokes up on the reins and cinches up in their body, which drives the horse forward."

Dustin is equally at ease with far more complicated and disturbing equine challenges. One of his biggest supporters is the Red Bucket Equine Rescue located nearby in Chino Hills. He's currently working with a few rescuees and his fulfillment comes from watching them transform from an abused horse into a trusting partner. "It blows me away the tactics that people have used on these horses, and I appreciate the opportunity to help them."

Horsey Heritage

A third generation horseman, Dustin grew up on the ranch horse sales circuit where his dad was an auctioneer. "I rode a lot of horses through the sale ring, in part because if people saw a that a young kid could ride them they were worth more." He roped and rodeod through high school and spent three years running a sizable horse ranch in Colorado.

Photo © Kelly Campbell

A horse-induced severe head injury redirected Dustin's career path. Once he recovered, he moved to Oklahoma, where his father was, and took a ranch position that evolved into horse transportation and eventually exporting around the world for competition and sale. "It became kind of an empire," he says. Managing international travel for a famous Mammoth Jack (competitive mule) and the FEI gold medal winning reining team are just a few of the firm's resume highlights. "We shipped a lot of great horses for great trainers around the world and that wound up furthering my education."

Dustin moved to California to be near his girlfriend Aimee Holiday, a well-known Miniature horse breeder and trainer under the Painted H Ranch banner. She's also an active hunter/jumper competitor and Dustin shares her interest in both endeavors. He cheers her on at shows and is increasingly getting a chance to see horses he's worked with succeed with their owners on the hunter/jumper circuit. One client was ready to geld their sporthorse stallion, but Dustin was able to bring out his gentleman side and the horse is now doing well in conformation classes.

The Dustin Davis Training Center is a privately-owned full-service, 56-acre ranch. Boarding is available to those in training with Dustin and amenities include indoor and outdoor all-weather arenas, three round pens, a galloping path/riding trail around the property, access to local trails and on-site 24/7 security. Dustin welcomes students who want to haul in for lessons and he is available for clinics.

For more information, visit or call 580-369-8663.